« PreviousContinue »
stone is admirably suited to represent Mahomedanism, because their most holy object on earth is the black stone at Mecca; this is again signified in the Revelations, chap. ii., verse 17—“To him that overcometh” (the great conqueror, Mahomed) will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a name written which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” The stone at Mecca was originally white, but its colour was miraculously changed to black by the kisses of the faithful.
The Koran is called the morning star; and Friday, the Mahomedan sabbath, is called by religious persons in every country where that faith prevails “Sukbar," or the day of the morning star. A clear prophecy of this appears in Revelations, chap. ii., verses 26-28, “ To him that overcometh I will give the morning
The prophet Mahomed was distinguished by an extraordinary attachment to white garments-he scarcely ever wore any others. This circumstance is not omitted in the prophecies regarding him in the Revelations : in chap. iii., verse 5, we read —“He that overcometh the same shall be clothed in white raiment.” This minute but important circumstance forms the last link in that chain of evidence which proves Mahomed, the great conqueror and prophet, to be identical with “him that overcometh,” so often mentioned in the apocalypse.
Christian writers frequently bring, as a damning and conclusive charge, sufficient of itself to consign Mahomedanism to the contempt of refined and civilised nations, that the descriptions in the Koran of the Paradise prepared for faithful believers presents a series of enjoyments of the most sensual and material nature. Now the descriptions of hell in the New Testament are all essen. tially material, and the Catholic Church gives her sanction to the most horrible pictorial representations of infernal torments according to scripture, for the terror and edification of children and persons unable to read. But most Protestants would complain bitterly of being calumniated if they were accused of approving or tolerating such coarse intimidation. Protestant theologians shrink from a bold and explicit exposure of their own
HELL AND HEAVEN OF THE BIBLE.
doctrines, and seek to shroud them in vague, general, and mysterious terms, or obscure metaphorical language. They cannot deny a belief in the hell-punisbments mentioned by Jesus, who describes the rich glutton opening his eyes amidst the flames of hell, and begging in vain for a drop of water to cool his tongue; who tells his disciples of the bottomless pit, the worm that dieth not, the tormenting devils, and the lake burning with fire and brimstone. Protestants cannot get rid of these definite and material images, but they avoid dwelling on the subject, and many of them teach that the Bible accounts of hell are figurative, and signify the torments of conscience, and the absence from God and the spirits of the just made perfect.
But, indeed, if we examine the accounts of Heaven contained in the Christian scriptures, we shall find them also to be essentially material, and, even if figuratively explained away, not at all superior in dignity, speciousness, or grandeur to any of the ancient mythological or poetical descriptions. The scriptural heaven, with its vulgar machinery of lightning, thrones, incense, and flying angels, is a fit counterpart to the scriptural hell, with its brimstone lakes, devils, and gnashing of teeth; and both equally require the unlimited acquiescence of modern Protestant believers in an upinquiring and indefinite supposition of metaphor and mystery if taken in a literal sense they would be too absurd for any man of education, however pious. In a literal sense, what could the modern Christians think of the Being seated on a throne in heaven, who is “ to look upon like unto a jasper and a sardine stope," and who is worshipped “ day and night” by twenty-four elders, and four beasts of diverse and grotesque appearance, and full of eyes before and behind ” Revelations, chap. iv., verse 6. The modern Christian looks with most supreme contempt and pity on the Hindoo, whose God is symbolically represented with three heads and eight arms, and overlooks the fact that the Bible declares God to be worshipped in Heaven under the form of a lamb, as it had been slain," with seven horns and seven eyes, and that on one occasion their God descended to the earth in the bodily shape of a dove! Without a liberal use of mystery and metaphor, and much depreciation of inconvenient
ALLEGORY ANSWERS FOR ALL.
questions, the modern Protestant theologian could not make a plausible show of reply to the doubts and difficulties of his pupils.
Now, on the part of Mahomedanism, it must be said that a considerable sect, the Sufis, consisting of the most learned and devout men of that religion, explain all the sensual pleasures of their promised Paradise in a figurative sense, as signifying angelio and spiritual enjoyments. They deal with the Houris just as Protestants deal with the brimstone lakes, the celestial beasts, and the “back parts” of Jehovah. And surely no Christian can cavil at such an explanatory process, no Christian can find fault with the use of such imagery to describe the bliss of Heaven, when he himself believes that Solomon was inspired by God to delineate the love of Christ for his church, and other dirine mysteries, under the gross and sensual raptures of a lascivious epithalamium. The Sufis also regard as religious allegories the amorous and convivial lyrics of the celebrated Persian poet, Hafiz, who was a member of their sect, and whom they venerate almost as an inspired writer. For every word and phrase in his songs they discover an appropriate religious interpretation, just as pious Christian commentators find a mystical significance in the warmest passages of the Song of Solomon.
These evidences of prophecy in favour of Mahomedanism are not a bit more foulish and weak than an equal amount from any Christian book on the same subject. They are principally extracted from a Persian work, called Saulat-uz-Zaigham, or the Lion's Onset, published at Lucknow in India, as an answer to a book written by a Christian missionary. The greater part of this book, however, is written in a merely declamatory style, with very few attempts at reasoning. Indeed Mabomedan believers, all of them natives of countries in an inferior state of civilisation, are hardly capable of understanding the most ordinary rules of argumentation. As they progress in knowledge their books of evidences will appear, and when the Mahomedads require a Reformation they will have it. They must pass through this stage, as European Christian nations are now passing. Increased knowledge and better taste will cause the most revolting and immoral tenets of the Koran to be modified, softened down, and explained away,
REFORM AND DOWNFALL.
in the same way that Protestants have treated various doctrines and conclusions that may be legitimately drawn from a literal interpretation of the Bible. Falsehood, and even flagrant crime, can never be completely and finally exposed and convicted until it has been defended to the last struggle. Christianity, a symptom and an agent in civilisation and progress, has now become a stumbling-block and an obstruction; it is the wooden centering of an arch, and must now be struck away. Mohamedanism will last longer, but when its decay commences (and there are signs of it already), it will probably be more easily and rapidly destroyed.
CHAPTER THE EIGHTH.
THE OLD TESTAMENT.
The origin and authorship of the collection of Hebrew writings which is called by Christians the Old Testament, are shrouded in considerable obscurity. These books were not known to any nation besides the Jews untill nearly three hundred years before Christ, when the Greek translation called the Septuagint was made ; we must therefore seek for their history, and estimate their authenticity and value, by a careful examination of the books themselves. They are thirty-nine in number-written by various authors, apparently of various religious opinions, but all of them, without doubt, Jews, and most probably all of them priests and reputed prophets of that singular nation. There could have been no difficulty at any time in procuring their acceptance as divine revelations by the Jews, since we know that they entertained the most awful respect for their priests, who were believed to have direct communications with God in the mysterious and impenetrable Holy of Holies, and since we know that they were accus, tomed to the occasional appearance of prophets,who, under the sup.
BOOK OF THE LAW FOUND.
posed influence of divine inspiration, cursed their enemies, and flattered, threatened, and advised them. The Jewish scriptures were, in fact, compiled and collected by a succession of priests from their national traditions and legends, and from such ancient books and records as are freqnently referred to in the Old Testament,* and with the addition from time to time of such new writings and prophecies as they deemed worthy of being considered as inspired by God.
A striking instance of the submissive and uninquiring manner in which the Jews received the scriptures from their priests is to be found in the 2nd Kings, chap. xxii., and the 2nd Chronicles, chap. xxxiv. During the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, Kings of Judah, a great part of the nation is said to have fallen into the abominable practices of idolatry and dealing with evil spirits. As soon as Josiah, the pious son and successor of Amon, had attained to years of discretion, he commenced the most vigorous efforts for the restoration of orthodoxy, and for the condign punishment of witches and magicians. He destroyed the temples, groves, and images of Baal, persecuted his worshippers, and burned his priests; and after a successful iconoclastic tour through the provinces and cities of his kingdom, he returned to Jerusalem, and applied himself to the decoration of the temple of God. In the midst of this revival of religion, it is said that Hilkiah, the High Priest, informed Shaphan, the Scribe, that he had “ found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” Shaphan took the book to the king, who ordered him to read it; and Josiah was so horrified at the denunciations which he then heard against neglect of the laws contained in the book, that he rent his clothes on the spot, and wept before the Lord. By this behaviour of the king, and that of Shaphan the scribe, it is quite clear that they had never seen such a book before; and if this be true of so pious a prince as Josiah, and so distinguished a scribe as Shaphan, we may safely conclude that no copy of it existed at that time in the possession of any other Jew. And this view is confirmed beyond
* The book of Jasher, the book of Iddo, the book of Gad the Seer, the book of the Wars of the Lord, the book of Nathan the Prophet, and some others, are mentioned in the Old Testament as of equal authority with the existing books.